Proliferation Press

A webpage devoted to tracking and analyzing current events related to the proliferation of WMD/CBRN.

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Posts Tagged ‘NPR’

Pakistan and the U.S. Nuclear Posture Review

Posted by K.E. White on April 8, 2010

Two pieces in today’s Dawn reveal the Pakistani viewpoint on Obama’s Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) and their own ambiguous nuclear status—a nation possessing nuclear weapons, but still unrecognized as such by the international community.

While most US coverage has focused on the impact of the NPR on America’s nuclear arsenal and security, these two articles illustrate the NPR’s impact within foreign nations.

In short, both articles paint the picture of a nuclear armed nation that remains stuck between the categories of nuclear rogue and “recognized and respected nuclear power”.

Dawn reviews the recently released NPR, pointing out its silence on Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal.  From the article (appropriately titled ‘US nuclear policy makes exceptions for Pakistan’):

The new US policy is also critical of “additional countries” who desire to acquire nuclear weapons, “especially those at odds with the United States, its allies and partners, and the broader international community”.

This condition creates room for Pakistan as a country which is not only allied to the US and its partners but also is playing a key role in their efforts to defeat terrorism.

The document, however, makes no such exception for Iran and North Korea, and points out that in pursuit of their nuclear ambitions, the two countries have “violated non-proliferation obligations, defied directives of the United Nations Security Council, pursued missile delivery capabilities, and resisted international efforts to resolve through diplomatic means the crises they have created”.

And a Dawn editorial pushes for Pakistan to remain a prudent nuclear power, dangling the prospect of an eventual US-Pakistan nuclear deal.

But the possibility of a deal being reached even at some relatively distant point in the future will also remain a non-starter if Pakistan, terrorism/militancy and proliferation are always put in the same basket. Pakistanis should never be complacent about the country’s nuclear programme but neither do they deserve to be forever condemned for past mistakes and by exaggerated suspicions. The road to becoming a recognised and respected nuclear power is still a long way off, but at least the journey should be allowed to commence.

The message is clear:  Continuing to partner with the United States—whatever its difficulties—provides Pakistan a pathway towards acceptance from and prestige within the international community.

Posted in Pakistan | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Proliferation News Round Up: Sizing Up Obama’s Nuclear Posture Review

Posted by K.E. White on April 7, 2010

What does President Obama’s Nuclear Posture Review change?  The New York Times squarely answers this question—claiming that Obama has prudently constrained when the United States will deploy nuclear weapons:

The document substantially narrows the conditions under which the United States would use nuclear weapons. The last review — done in 2002 by the George W. Bush administration — gave nuclear weapons a “critical role” in defending the country and its allies and suggested that they could be used against foes wielding chemical, biological or even conventional forces.

The new review says the “fundamental role” of nuclear weapons is to deter nuclear attack on the United States and its allies, and it rules out the use of nuclear weapons against nonnuclear countries, even if they attack the United States with unconventional weapons.

There is an important caveat. That assurance only goes to countries that are in compliance with the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, which leaves out North Korea and Iran. It would have been better if Mr. Obama made the “sole” purpose of nuclear weapons deterring a nuclear attack. No one in their right mind can imagine the United States ever using a nuclear weapon again. America’s vast conventional military superiority is more than enough to defend against most threats.

Assuming the NPR holds diplomatic weight, how does Obama’s revision shape-up overall?

ForeignPolicy.com offers three takes on Obama’s Nuclear Posture Review (NPR), all worth reading.  But all the articles—whether grading the NPR or highlight its surprising results—fail to properly place the NPR within Obama’s overall nonproliferation strategy.  While the review might not be as bold as some desire, it represents one step in the administration’s nonproliferation strategy.  With an upcoming nuclear security summit and NPT conference, the last thing the administration needs is controversy within the administration or the Hill over  Obama’s nuclear weapon policies.  Hence, assessing the NPR in a vacuum does little to map-out America’s nuclear policies at the end of Obama’s first (or second) term.

Peter Feaver writes on the NPR’s significance and uncertain legacy:

On balance, the NPR seems to be a split-the-difference compromise between different factions among Obama’s advisors. In this respect, it resembles the most important national security decisions President Obama has made thus far on Iraq and Afghanistan. Critics may complain that this results in a lack of strategic clarity — and some of the confusion that has attended the Iraq and Afghanistan policies shows that this danger is a real one — but perhaps it will come to be seen as a politically deft balance of competing desiderata. It is unmistakably a step away from the compromises struck during the Bush era, but I don’t see much evidence that this is the bold leap that wins plaudits in academic seminar rooms, activist think-tanks, and Norwegian parliaments.

David E. Hoffman highlights the plan’s shorting-comings.  Among his list:  Obama’s continued adherence to the nuclear triad and keeping nuclear missiles on alert; Obama’s refusal to tackle the problem of attribution (while he reserves to right to use nuclear weapons against biological threats, what happens when the source of the threat can’t be identified?); and finally, the nuclear posture review’s silence on tactical nuclear weapons.

And Josh Rogin, adding an interesting wrinkle, argues the NPR gives “star billing” to missile defense:

Later on in the document, the administration points to Russia and China’s nuclear modernization and notes that both countries view U.S. missile-defense expansion as destabilizing. Secretary Clinton addressed that issue in Tuesday’s press conference.

The NPR itself was careful to mention missile defense as only one of several capabilities needed to counter non-nuclear attacks.

But Secretary Clinton was less careful.

“It’s no secret that countries around the world remained concerned about our missile-defense program,” Clinton said, explaining that the NPR weighs in on “the role [missile defense] can and should play in deterring proliferation and nuclear terrorism.”

Ok, so now missile defense can deter chemical attacks, biological attacks, proliferation of nuclear technology, and suitcase bombs?

Regardless, the document makes clear that with fewer nukes to be deployed once the new START agreement goes into effect, and with the role of nuclear weapons now limited to responding to nuclear threats, the administration is now looking to missile defense, among other technologies, to fill in the gap.

Posted in Nuclear Posture Review | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Broken DHS? Placing Blame and Finding Remedies

Posted by K.E. White on January 31, 2008

NPR explores whether or not the Department of Homeland Security is effectively protecting America from terrorist threats.

The article highlights Randy Larson’s new book Our Own Worst Enemy. Larsen argues that the agency’s dirty bomb approach should shift from ‘defensive’ to ‘preventive’:

The main way Homeland Security protects a city like Baltimore from nuclear weapons is by checking cargo containers at the port. Larsen thinks that focus is all wrong.

“The issue must be on preventing terrorists from getting their hands on nuclear materials. That’s not about X-raying and doing radiological scans of containers,” Larsen said.

Larsen’s recent book, Our Own Worst Enemy, bemoans what he sees as a lack of common sense when it comes to homeland security. He thinks the government spends too much on “guns, guards and gates” and not enough on intelligence and nuclear nonproliferation, which might be more effective.

NPR’s Pam Fessler also talks to Stephen Flynn and James Jay Carafano of the Council on Foreign Relations and the Heritage Institute, respectively.

But it seems the real culprit may not be DHS, but rather the United States Congress:

More than 80 committees and subcommittees have some jurisdiction over his agency. He says lawmakers have little incentive to look at the big picture.

“We’re serving so many masters with so many inconsistent positions that it’s very hard to do our job,” Chertoff says.

In fact, almost everyone interviewed for this series cited as a major problem the failure of Congress to consolidate its oversight of Homeland Security. It’s the one recommendation of the bipartisan 9/11 Commission that lawmakers chose to ignore.

Posted in Department of Homeland Security, DHS | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »